News flash: Nascar drivers support Republicans

Allen Hurlbert writes:

I saw your 538 post [on the partisan allegiances of sports fans] and it reminded me of some playful data analysis I [Hurlbert] did a couple months ago based on’s compilation of sports celebrity campaign contributions. Glancing through the list I thought I noticed some interesting patterns in the partisan nature of various sports, so I downloaded the data and created this figure:


For each sports celebrity, NewsMeat lists the percentage of their political contributions going towards Democratic, Republican, or Other parties or candidates. Of the contributions going towards one of the two specified parties, I calculated the fraction going to each party. The number of people per sport summarized by the database is given in parentheses. “Sports Media” includes primarily sportscasters that are not affiliated with any particular sport. Sportscasters that were former professional athletes were included with their respective sports.

Here are the main things that pop out at me in no particular order.

1) Of America’s Big 3 sports, baseball and football are more Republican leaning while basketball is more Democratic leaning. The first obvious explanatory variable here is race, and in fact a quick search of WikiAnswers suggests that the percentage of black athletes is 83% in basketball, 65% in football, and 8% in baseball on the whole (although obviously the most relevant figures are for the actual celebrities in the database). The difference in racial composition between football and baseball is much greater than between football and basketball, and yet the campaign contributions of football players and coaches are much more similar to baseball athletes. This hints at some differences in sports culture independent of race.

2) Also consider the difference between the two elite country club sports, tennis and golf, which are both fairly homogeneous. (No Tiger, Venus, Serena or James in the list.) No surprise that golfers lean to the right, but I’m not sure I would have predicted the left-leaning of tennis. Granted tennis is only represented by 9 players….

3) What? NASCAR drivers support Republicans?!

4) Based on this sample, football players appear to be more politically engaged than other athletes. This is based on 3 measures of political engagement. (1) Their median contribution is higher than for any sport other than tennis (values on the right side of the figure). (2) They have the highest proportion of “non-partisan” contributors, that is contributors that made contributions to both parties. This suggests to me either some political strategery (buttering up both sides of the fence), or some issue- and candidate-based rather than party-based contributions. 40% of contributors were non-partisan for football compared to 34% for baseball, 28% for basketball, and 13% for golf. (3) Football players also had the highest percentage of contributions going to “Special Interests” which I’m assuming generally represent third party candidates or non-partisan ballot measures. This figure was 9.3% for football compared to 8.0% for baseball, 7.0% for basketball, and 3.7% for golf.

5) Sports media figures are fairly evenly represented by both sides of the political spectrum. Not sure what this suggests.

Fun stuff. And, don’t forget, Vin Scully is a Republican.

1 thought on “News flash: Nascar drivers support Republicans

  1. Nothing all that surprising there, I guess most of it also follows along racial lines….which is sad to say. Nascar for example isn't exactly known for having a diverse group of drivers and most of the minority MLB players are born outside of the country.

    Nice graph-thanks for sharing.

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